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Optimising school nurse involvement in youth-based tobacco control programs

The purpose of this project is to examine, prioritise and empirically test promising areas of research and intervention success in youth tobacco control including harm minimisation strategies targeting 11-17 year olds, involving teachers, parents and school staff, including school nurses. This project aims to provide capacity building benefits at three levels: to secondary school staff; to at least four postgraduate students; as well as to school health promotion / smoking prevention/cessation practitioners and researchers. Ultimately this project may add previously underused but well trained, highly credible resources to efforts to decrease the use of and harm associated with tobacco and other drugs amongst Western Australian youth. In addition, this project aims to build on the capacity of school staff by providing a comprehensive and user friendly framework for addressing smoking cessation and smoking and other drug-related harm among adolescents. The project has identified strategies through previous research and stakeholder groups, and is testing these strategies with school staff and adolescents in order to select the best strategies for reducing harm due to tobacco and other drugs to be delivered by school staff in the secondary school setting.

The Optimising School Nurse Involvement in Youth Based Tobacco Control Programs project is divided into six phases. Phases 1 to 4 have incorporated: stakeholder engagement; scoping of evidence; validation and adoption and assessment of pilot information on potential interventions. Two Masters students have contributed data during these stages that have guided the development of the next phase of the project. One of these students, Ms Laura Bond, completed her thesis in 2009 and has been awarded a Master of Public Health; finding young people seek help from a variety of sources, not only the school nurse, so a broader pastoral care intervention could assist to build staff capacity to respond to students’ smoking-related needs. A second Masters student, Ms Patricia Cardoso, explored the characteristics of school staff and school health services that make them appealing and accessible to young people; finding not only would the broader pastoral care team benefit from capacity development opportunity to respond to young peoples’ smoking-related needs, but so too would general teaching staff, as these were often the staff from whom students sought help.

Phase 5 of the project comprised the longitudinal implementation and evaluation of a program designed to upskill school staff when responding to students’ smoking-related needs. In this phase, the Child Health Promotion Research Centre worked with School Drug Education and Road Aware (SDERA) to implement and evaluate their Keeping in Touch (KIT) program, with additional capacity building strategies to test the KIT-Plus Program. One PhD student, Dr Laura Thomas coordinated the evaluation of this project in 2008 before stepping aside to pursue her doctoral research investigating the relationships between adolescents’ school-based extra-curricular activity participation, connectedness to school and cigarette and alcohol use. This doctoral research identified participating in school-based extra-curricular activities which foster connectedness to school was protective of students’ engagement in recent cigarette smoking behaviour. A third Masters student, Ms Kaashifah Bruce, also worked on the KIT-Plus program, investigating staff characteristics which influence implementation of smoking harm reduction programs. This Masters research will be completed in 2012. For further details on this intervention project please refer to the details of the Strengthening Pastoral Care to Reduce Secondary Students’ Harm from Tobacco Project on this website.

Phase 6 of the Optimising School Nurse Involvement in Youth Based Tobacco Control Programs involves the Dissemination Trial of the KIT-Plus program. Further funding will be required to proceed to this phase.

In 2012, a final Masters student, Ms Liz Wenden, commenced her research investigating the socio-cultural factors contributing to rural adolescents’ smoking behaviour. This research will be completed in 2013.

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Funding body


For further information about this project contact Laura Thomas on 9370 6643 or at


Professor Donna Cross
Associate Professor Marg Hall
Ms Thérèse Shaw
Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand, Dr Greg Hamilton
Associate Professor Stacey Waters
Ms Ilse O’Ferral
Swinburne University, Professor Linda Kristjanson
Dr Lydia Hearn
Professor Alison Garton
Ms Rosemary Saunders

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